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Kickers fall to Front Rangers in soccer tournament

Weekend full of highs and lows for local team

by Than Acuff

The local youth movement has taken hold of the Crested Butte Kickers coed adult soccer team but they still struggled in their hometown tournament this past weekend, falling short of pre-tournament expectations.

With a roster that included a couple of current college players and former Crested Butte Titans standouts, the Kickers were primed to return to the top of the heap at the annual Crested Butte Invitational soccer tournament Saturday and Sunday, June 16-17.

They got off to a tough start Saturday morning as they opened the weekend against a squad from Boulder that has racked up a handful of Crested Butte tournament titles over the years and spends the better part of each year competing in a Boulder-area league.

Yet, despite their opponent’s penchant for winning, the Kickers were resolute in their confidence prior to the game, as longtime player Jeff Jaquith pointed out: “At least we know each other’s names this time and we usually play better when we know each other’s names.”

The Kickers’ confidence took a hit early in the game though, as Boulder scored in the seventh minute when a defensive miscue on a long punt allowed a Boulder striker to slip free and score.

The early strike lifted the Kickers out of the early morning fog and they started to find some semblance of cohesion on the field to mount a handful of attacks against Boulder, sparked by the efforts of Michael “Big Easy” Buisson and Graham Koval.

Midfielder turned goalkeeper Sam Reaman came up big in net over the next 20 minutes and the Kickers fired off a couple of shots searching for the equalizer, but their attempts were either turned away by the Boulder keeper or just missed the mark.

Boulder tacked on a second goal late in the first half but the Kickers opened the second half determined to pull back into the game. Unfortunately, their intentions fell short and Boulder scored a third goal to hand the Kickers a 3-0 loss.

The Kickers returned to field Saturday afternoon to face Distant Third, a combination of Winter Park and Denver suburban players. After playing confused and with no subs for the women in the opening game, the Kickers picked up experience and Dana Shellhorn for their second match of the day and put the wood to Distant Third. Buisson led the charge in the opening 10 minutes, scoring two goals for an early 2-0 Kickers lead.

Distant Third came close on a couple of occasions soon after, but the work of Dylan Curtiss and Collin Dill on the back line helped stave off any true scoring threats from the opponent.

The Kickers added a third goal early in the second half when Buisson chased down a ball over the top and then laid it off to Polly McGrane for the finishing touch. Fifteen minutes later, the Kickers struck a fourth time as Koval slipped down the flank and chipped his shot over the onrushing goalie.

Content with their four-goal lead, the Kickers turned noticeably lackadaisical, allowing Distant Third to climb back into the game. Reaman came up with a couple big saves but the constant pressure by Distant Third produced two goals and things were looking shaky for the Kickers. The Kickers eventually sealed the deal when Brice Koval found a seam inside the 18-yard box for a toe poke past the Distant Third keeper to ice the 5-2 win.

Unfortunately, the first game loss to Boulder meant the Kickers needed to win Sunday morning, while Boulder needed to lose for Crested Butte to advance to the championship game.

The Kickers kept up their end of the deal as they rolled to a 4-2 win over Montezuma, including a key goal from Ellen Teague, but Boulder advanced to the finals with a win Sunday morning, leaving the Kickers to play for third place Sunday afternoon against Flatirons out of Boulder.

Torrential rain made for a sloppy pitch but the Kickers opened on fire, pulling ahead 2-0 in the first 10 minutes as Kaleb Shultz and Graham each scored.

But over-confidence and some fatigue set in, allowing Flatirons to climb back in the game. Sam Reaman proved stout in net but Flatirons managed to tie the game up. The Kickers had two chances to go back on top but a missed penalty kick and a shot in close that was turned away by Flatirons goalie forced the game into overtime.

Neither team scored in overtime and the game was ultimately determined by penalty kicks as Flatiron hit four in a row, while the Kickers missed two of their first four shootout attempts to fall to Flatirons.

“There was some fatigue involved and we went up so early that we started to think we had the game won,” says Brice. “Also, their goalie was really good and that was a big part of it.”

While the Kickers’ effort over the weekend was admirable, Brice believes it really came down to two things that held the Kickers back from reaching the title.

“Other teams play together in leagues and we seem to have a new group every year so we have to spend each game trying to figure each other out,” says Brice. “We also didn’t have any subs for the women. Our women played well and ran their butts off putting in a great effort, but the other teams had as many as three women on the bench to sub in.”

Pick-up soccer in Crested Butte will continue throughout the summer, with the season coming to a close in August at the annual Telluride tournament.

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